Lately I've been hearing a lot about kids' self-esteem and what we as parents can do to foster a healthy sense of self in our little ones. This topic is on my radar because I have a 4-year-old who loves princesses and has a great imagination. Whether she's dressing up as her favourite fairytale character or entertaining us with her rendition of Cinderella dancing at the ball, her idea of beauty is being shaped as we speak.
While I have nothing against playing princess (I loved to do that as a kid, too!), I realize how vital my role is in influencing her views on beauty and self-worth while she's still young. So, I've made a real effort to not stress outward beauty when complimenting my daughter. She's strong, smart, brave, helpful, kind, loving and a whole lot of other adjectives! And, when someone else pays her a compliment about her outward appearance, I try to talk with her afterward about how a person’s real beauty comes from inside. I remind her that if you're not a good person on the inside, your true beauty can't show on the outside. We put emphasis more on having a "beautiful heart" than external beauty.
Now, I’m not completely naïve in thinking I can shield her from superficial comments about her looks. But, I can do my best to instill in her the knowledge that, despite her lovely exterior, it's the stuff inside that counts - all of the wonderful traits that make her unique. And, I think it's sinking in because when I read the Mother's Day card she made me at pre-school, one of the fill-in-the-blank comments was "Why I love my Mom". Her answer? "Because she's got a beautiful heart."